Yun Bing, attrib.
Three Friends of the Cold Season, 19th-early 20th c.
Gift of William Bingham II from the Peterson Collection
In this scroll, the painting tells one story, the inscription another. A strangely shaped garden rock and an assortment of plants—pink peonies in full bloom, more delicate white plum, and spiky green bamboo—provide a congenial setting for a conversation between mynah birds. The artist has captured a pleasing image of spring.
But, the spurious inscription is more ambitious. Instead of spring, it refers to winter by invoking the “three friends”—plum, bamboo, and pine. The reference also raises the cultural sophistication of the painting, for the three friends collectively symbolize fortitude. Finally, the inscription impersonates the accomplished female painter, Yun Bing, claiming that the painting was inspired by a work of the even more famous Qian Xuan (ca. 1235-before 1307).
De-nin Lee, Assistant Professor, Bowdoin